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Iraq Report: October 12, 2002

12 October 2002, Volume 5, Number 33

SADDAM ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. Iraqi leader Saddam Husseyn reportedly escaped a recent assassination attempt when a military pilot tried to bomb a presidential palace while the Iraqi president was present, according to a 8 October report by the Kuwaiti daily "Al-Qabas." The paper reported, "The MiG-23 had taken off from Al-Bakr base, 50 kilometers from Baghdad on Monday [7 October] to take part in a bombing drill on targets east of the Tigris River, but the airman veered off...immediately when the drill started, speeding toward Saddam's palace, located on Al-Tharthar lake." The MiG was reportedly then struck down with a Strella missile that was fired from the ground. "Al-Qabas" also reported that the pilot was arrested and that Saddam Husseyn supervised his interrogation.

The report also indicated that a high level of confusion exists in the ranks of the regime's personnel as a result of deep concern over a prospective internal uprising to oust the regime. According to "Al-Qabas," as many as 30,000 personnel have been deployed to areas where the regime expects an internal rebellion, including the stationing of five brigades of the presidential and Republican Guards in Baghdad. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

RADIATION EARLY WARNING SYSTEM INSTALLED ON TURKISH-IRAQI BORDER. An article in the Ankara edition of the Istanbul newspaper "Turkiye'de Aksam" of 3 October noted that the Turkish armed forces have installed a radiation early warning sensor (RESA) network along the Turkish-Iraqi border. The General Staff commissioned the project. It is thought that if the U.S. started an operation against Iraq, the Turkish Atomic Energy Commission will bring on-line the 51 RESA stations in southeast Anatolia.

The RESA system is designed to detect radiation and the nature of the threat would then be determined by experts from the Turkish Atomic Energy Commission. The most critical points are considered to be the Habur and Esendere border posts. All public bodies, such as civil defense organs and the Ministry of Health, are then to swing into action and warn the public. (David Nissman)

IRAQI MINISTER DISCUSSES UPCOMING CONFRONTATION. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Military Industrialization Abd-al-Tawwab Abdallah al-Mullah Huwaysh told reporters on 10 October that U.S. accusations of Iraqi expansion at the Al-Furat and Al-Nasr al-Azim industrial sites are untrue. Huwaysh spoke at a news conference in Baghdad, Al-Jazeera TV reported.

The minister admitted to rebuilding on the sites following U.S. and U.K. bombings in 1991 and 1998, but denied that expansion work was carried out.

He said, "It is natural that the Iraqis would rebuild these industrial installations to make them functional again so that they would feed industries in Iraq. No expansion work was carried out at the Al-Furat site. What happened was a continuation of the construction of buildings that were already standing then." He added that this was done "under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The site was used as an electronic research center." Huwaysh pointed out that Iraq has rebuilt much of what was destroyed by coalition forces, not only factories, but hospitals, roads, and bridges. He invited reporters and the U.S. administration to visit the sites.

According to UNSCOM, Al-Furat was intended for the design, assembly, and testing of gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. The United States suspects the Al-Nasr State Establishment of producing chemical and biological weapons or missile components.

Asked whether Iraq would use weapons of mass destruction if a confrontation should occur with the U.S., Huwaysh replied: "We would like to stress once again that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction. As for their warning Iraq against using weapons of mass destruction if a new aggression takes place against Iraq, this depends on them and is part of the lies and fabrications by the U.S. administration. We would like to ask the U.S. administration whether it will use nuclear bombs on Iraq.... On the ground, they [the U.S.] would not move one inch forward. We are peace advocates. But when we fight, we will fight fiercely for we are fighting for our existence, land, water, culture, and future."

In other news, Iraq TV reported on 10 October that a U.S. bombing destroyed the civil radar system at the Basra International Airport. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQ LOBBIES RUSSIA... A six-member Iraqi delegation arrived in Moscow on 2 October to discuss Iraq-Russia relations. The Iraqi delegation included Deputy Minister of Oil Husseyn al-Hadithi and Deputy Minister of Industry Ahmad Rashid, as well as Chairman of the Iraq Organization for Friendship, Peace, and Solidarity with Foreign Countries Abd-al-Razzaq Qasim al-Hashimi.

The Iraqi delegation met with Russian parliamentary and Foreign Ministry officials, as well as business people to discuss continuing economic cooperation between the two states, including a five-year, $40 billion cooperation agreement, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 October.

The ministers concluded several agreements, including contracts amounting to $200 million to supply Iraqi pharmaceutical factories with materials necessary to manufacture medicines and fertilizer. Iraqi Industry Minister Rashid admitted that the contracts would remain frozen for the time being due to UN sanctions. Meanwhile, Iraqi Deputy Oil Minister Al-Hadithi stated that Russia is providing Iraq with equipment to mine and process petroleum. Al-Hadithi said that Russian-Iraqi contracts in the petroleum sector amount to some $1.5 billion.

It is unlikely that the $40 billion cooperation agreement will materialize, however. Rather, it is more likely that Iraq is using the agreements to drum up Russian support for Iraq in the UN Security Council. Nonetheless, Iraq remains heavily indebted to Russia. In a trip to Washington last week, Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the International Affairs Committee of Russia's Federation Council (upper house), estimated Iraq's debt to Russia to be between $7 billion and $12 billion. On 5 October, Margelov told reporters at a briefing at the Russian Embassy in Washington, "This debt has to be repaid and Russia definitely needs guarantees from our partners that this position is being recognized and respected," Reuters reported.

In a related development, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yurii Fedotov told ITAR-TASS on 4 October that a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq was unnecessary. Fedotov said, "Existing UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq are quite enough and there is no point adopting a resolution whose requirements would go beyond the ones that already exist." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...WHILE UKRAINE DENIES ORDERING DELIVERY OF RADAR SYSTEMS TO IRAQ. Yevhen Marchuk, secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, told Ukrainian TV on 6 October that Ukraine could not have sold a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq. He also implied that Iraq might have obtained such a radar system from another source, citing that two-thirds of the Kolchuga systems manufactured in the Soviet Union were stationed outside Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma denied reports on 8 October that he ordered the delivery of a Kolchuga radar system to Iraq. He told reporters, "I would not have given orders to deliver arms to Iraq under any circumstances because this cannot be done," Interfax reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TURKISH-U.S. DEAL ON IRAQ? The Anadolu agency on 5 October interviewed three Turkish ministers of state about the consequences on Turkey of a possible U.S. attack on Iraq, and they were pessimistic in their conclusions. Tourism Minister Mustafa Tasar said it would damage tourism. State Minister Mehmet Kocabatmaz said that an operation in the northern parallel of Iraq "did not suit Turkey's interests."

Kocabatmaz also noted that the convening of the Kurdish parliament was felt to be a "handicap as the Turkmens were excluded." (He failed to note that the Turkmens were not included in the earlier parliament because they choose not to participate; see "Iraqi Turkmen on Kurdish Parliament" in this issue.) And here he and parliamentary speaker Omer Izgi touched on a primary concern -- that the operation of oil beds by the Turkmens is "very important and beneficial for Turkey."

Izgi stated that Mosul, Kirkuk, and Sulaymaniyah were Turkmen regions, and said, emphasizing the importance of the oil, that "a Kurdish state to be founded on Mosul and Kirkuk can always be under Turkey's influence."

In a similar vein of rhetoric, the Istanbul "Star" of 5 October noted that a "war summit" had been convened in Ankara and reached the conclusions that no development leading to the establishment of an independent Kurdish state should be permitted; also, Turkey does not look warmly on the establishment of a federal Kurdish state; and they oppose the inclusion of Kirkuk, "a historical area of settlement of the Turkmens," into "any Kurdish federation that may be established." These parameters are what the "Star" called the "red lines" which may not be crossed.

So, is there a Turkey-U.S. deal? Some outlines may be seen by the need for a U.S. military presence in the region, namely the American use of the Incirlik air base, from which all the flights patrolling the no-fly zone are launched. On the other hand, U.S. sentiment for the draft Kurdish Constitution (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 13 September 2002, among others) is also great. A point not made in past studies of this yet untried constitution is that a territorial claim is also made to Kirkuk as part of a Kurdish federation within Iraq. If the U.S. concedes the Turkish claim to Kirkuk (stemming from the Treaty of Sevres in 1920) and places the new federated Kurdistan under the protection of the Turkish armed forces, Turkey would then get some of the massive oil deposits of Kirkuk, thus replacing some of their losses from the Gulf War, and the U.S. receives continued access to Incirlik. Turkey also has a chance to renew its ties to the Turkmens in Iraq and the Kurds get part of their wish -- a federated Kurdish autonomy within Iraq.

Are there any concrete grounds for such speculation? A number of Iraqi opposition figures spoke at a meeting in Nevsehir in Turkey at the end of September. The meeting was attended by Iraqi Turkmens and Kurds as well as other ethnic groups. It should be noted that it was attended not only by representatives from the U.S. Embassy but also of Germany, Russia, and Japan (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 4 October 2002). The meeting was held under Turkish sponsorship, thus belying claims in the Turkish press about a potential Turkish stance of neutrality in the Iraq situation.

Also, according to a report in Istanbul's "Hurriyet" of 6 October, Turkey has a list of seven "desiderata" in the event of an American invasion of Iraq. First, the primary request is that no such operation be carried out; second, assuming that the U.S. launches an operation, it must be based on "legitimacy" and "international law"; third, no Kurdish state is to be permitted; fourth, Turkey is to be reimbursed for any economic losses incurred during the operation; fifth, no refugees will be permitted to enter the country; sixth, the operation must be short; and seventh, the petroleum regions of Mosul and Kirkuk must not pass into Kurdish hands. The "deal" suggested in the body of this report is not much different than the formulation proposed in "Hurriyet," but less bureaucratic. The general outline is the same, except in the "deal" Turkey gets the oil. Any refugees will have to fend for themselves. (David Nissman)

IRAQI TURKMEN ON KURDISH PARLIAMENT. NTV, Istanbul television, interviewed Mustafa Ziya, an Iraqi Turkmen political activist, on 2 October about the Kurdish parliament and its implications for Iraq and the Iraqi Turkmens. With regard to the parliament, Ziya said that the Turkmens, who are not represented in the new parliament, should have the right of representation proportional to their demographic share, namely 20 percent. The Turkmens did not choose to participate in previous parliamentary elections.

With regard to Iraq, Ziya also made the point that efforts in various plans to govern Iraq that were "based on ethnicity have always dragged Iraq into problems."

Asked about the possibility of a U.S. operation and its implications for Iraqi Turkmens, he said that they do have a modest armed force of their own, and also pointed out that Turkmens have "gotten every sort of weapons instruction in the Iraq military." In short, the Turkmens are able both to defend their people and their territory. (David Nissman)

BARZANI, TALABANI ON KURDISH PARLIAMENT. Mas'ud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and Jalal Talabani, secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), gave a joint press conference to "Brayati," a KDP newspaper, on 3 October. In it they discussed the reconvening of the Kurdish parliament on 4 October and talked about other aspects of the KDP-PUK relationship.

Talabani hastened to state that "we reaffirm our desire to fulfill our people's aspirations within the framework of a federal and democratic Iraq." Barzani reiterated Talabani's statements and dwelt on the possibilities of a reunification of the KDP and PUK: "We want to reassure the Kurdish people that the two sides [KDP and PUK] are seriously working; they have taken steps and will take other steps to remove all the obstacles and to take the best advantage for the Kurdish people of the existing opportunity...."

Barzani also wasted no time in appeasing Turkey, which has opposed the parliament and the idea of Kurdish federalism, by saying, in answer to a journalist's question: "As far as our neighbors [Turkey] are concerned, we reaffirm that we want a friendly relation with them and ask for their friendship, and we reaffirm that this agreement is also useful for them, because if unrest occurs here their security would not be threatened. We reassure them that this agreement is not, in any way, against them or their interest."

On the draft constitution of a federal Kurdistan within Iraq, Talabani was asked what the KDP and PUK will do with regard to political parties and sides. He claimed, "We respect all the Kurdistan political parties and all the militants in Kurdistan."

The most important issue touched on was the reunification of the KDP and PUK administrations. Barzani pointed out that the convening of the Kurdish National Assembly (parliament) was the first step in this process. (David Nissman)

SADDAM SLAMS U.S. DEMAND FOR RESOLUTION. Saddam Husseyn attacked the U.S. administration's insistence for a tougher UN Security Council resolution on 6 October, saying it was an attempt to cover up its "lie" about Baghdad's weapons program, Iraq TV reported. Husseyn said, "When Iraq saw that the world had believed the American lie and when everybody, including Arabs, Muslims, and foreigners started to ask Iraq to allow inspection teams back to stave off aggression...we accepted." The Iraqi leader added: "But look what they are doing now. They say the inspections teams should not go [into Iraq]. This means they are lying in their claim and they do not want their lie to be quickly exposed."

Saddam then addressed Iraq's ability to defend against a U.S. attack. He said, "Therefore, relying on the weapons available to us, and given our faith in God and his help and because our cause is right, we will be capable of confronting any aggressor no matter where he comes from and no matter what his nationality, color, or name." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

AL-DURI SAYS NO NEW UN RESOLUTION NEEDED... Muhammad Al-Duri, the Iraqi ambassador to the UN, told Egyptian Radio on 8 October that no new UN Security Council resolutions were needed concerning Iraq. Al-Duri said: "I wish to emphasize here and now that there is no need for a new Security Council resolution and that Iraq accepted the unconditional return of the inspectors in Vienna. As for the presidential and sensitive sites, they are governed by a memorandum approved by the Security Council in 1998. We insist on the implementation of this memorandum, which is an official and binding document for everybody." He added: "The U.S. scheme is a terrifying one that is not designed for Iraq alone, but for the entire region as well. It aims at controlling oil, which is an important and essential issue. Moreover, a major part of current U.S. actions focuses on the Palestinian issue." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

...AS INSPECTORS AWAIT NEW RESOLUTION. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) Executive Chairman Hans Blix, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad al-Baradei, urged the UN Security Council on 4 October to pass a new resolution in support of comprehensive weapons inspections in Iraq. The men spoke at a press conference in Washington on 4 October.

On the need for a new resolution, Dr. al-Baradei said: "We, I think, made it clear in our consultation in the Security Council that we need full backing of the Security Council. We have made some good progress on the practical arrangements to go back to Iraq in Vienna, but we need the full backing and support of the Security Council." Asked whether a tough resolution was needed in order for the inspectors to complete their work, Dr. Blix said: "I think it is clear that there has to be constant pressure to keep the Iraqis to comply with the resolution. There was an erosion over the years in the past. So that has to be there, but exactly the formulation of that, whether it is one resolution or two, this I think that we leave to them." (Kathleen Ridolfo)

STRAW'S MIDEAST TOUR. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw began a Mideast tour on 7 October to shore up support for action against Iraq. Straw visited Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Iran.

Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, expressed support for a return of weapons inspectors to Iraq during a breakfast banquet for Straw, the Egyptian government's MENA news agency reported on 8 October. Moussa added that the ideas expressed by U.S. President George W. Bush in his 7 October speech to the American people do not necessarily suit the dominant trend in the Security Council, MENA reported. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher's comments echoed those of Moussa. Maher said: "I do not think the issue needs new rules. There are already many UN resolutions in this regard. What is important is to return the UN inspectors to Iraq as quick as possible," the BBC reported on 8 October.

Straw met briefly with Jordan's King Abdullah on 8 October before traveling to Kuwait to meet with Emir Shaykh Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah.

On the final leg of Straw's tour, Iranian officials expressed disdain for U.S. and U.K. policy on Iraq. The "Financial Times" reported on 10 October that Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi warned Straw of "deep hatred" across the Islamic world for the U.S. because of its "unilateralist" approach to foreign policy, and accused the U.S. and U.K. of ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Analysts speculate that Iran privately expressed support for regime change in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)